Elections 2020FederalIssuesElizabeth Warren Holds Austin Town Hall Ahead of Houston Presidential Debate

Ahead of tomorrow's Democratic debate, polling shows Warren is trending upwards in the Democratic primary, gaining some ground on frontrunner Joe Biden.
September 11, 2019
While waiting for Massachusetts Senator and presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren to arrive at Vic Mathias Shores Park on the southside banks of the river across from downtown Austin, shouts of “persist” emanated from the crowd as raffle winners were selected to ask the candidate a question. 

“Persist,” of course, refers to the unofficial slogan of the 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.

As it turned out, thematically, the Warren who spoke in front of the Austin crowd was strikingly similar to the Democratic nominee three years ago — only with more policy wonkery. Warren’s unofficial slogan is, “I have a plan for that.” 

As I observed last night, she does, in fact, have plans for a number of things.

Before the event started, I was able to speak with two attendees about what they were looking forward to hearing from the candidate.

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Donna Arwood, a Democratic voter from the area, said she was most looking forward to Warren’s stances on healthcare.

“Since Medicare for All kind of scares people, I want to hear how she will frame it, so people aren’t so afraid,” Arwood stated.

Arwood mentioned Warren was not on her radar as a candidate until four months ago, but she’s “always liked [Warren].”

Warren’s rise in the polls didn’t truly come until after the debates started, but now she sits roughly tied for second with fellow Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) behind former Vice-President Joe Biden in the primary.

Arwood stated, “I don’t just want someone who can beat Donald Trump, I want someone who is actually going to do something.”

“Now I’m all in,” Arwood added, “She’s got plans.”

Arwood also mentioned she likes former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro — and would like to see a Warren/Castro ticket in the general election — but has “fallen out of love” with Beto O’Rourke since his senate campaign.

For Thomas Meade, an independent voter and former military serviceman, the two big issues he wanted to hear addressed were gun control and her plan for the military.

“Democrats are usually soft on military spending, and I want to know how she is going to replace the $3.6 billion on military spending Trump moved,” Meade stated, referring to the funds diverted from the Pentagon to help fund the border wall.

Neither of those topics was addressed at length, much less being a focal point of the event. But Warren did address another of Meade’s concerns: climate change.

Warren stated she would “place a moratorium on drilling off-shore and on federal lands,” if she were elected.

Saying this in the capital city of the state which produces more energy than California and New York combined — and is heavily reliant on the energy industry — could be described as a bold strategy. 

But as she often says, she’s got a plan for that.

The Senator also added that she wants the United States to get to a zero-percent carbon footprint by 2030.

Warren’s problem, as Meade sees it, is being able to draw in the independent vote. 

“I think she has to have a bit more moderate plans,” Meade stated, referring to her policy on gun control. He added, “This is Texas, you’re not just going to take their guns away.”

But for Meade, he is itching to find a viable alternative to Trump and attended to see if Warren fit that bill.

Issues she stressed were the top echelon of earners allegedly hoarding the vast majority of wealth, such as the Koch brothers who were “looking out for their bottom line”; ending Citizens United and “getting money out of politics”; and ensuring “fairness of our elections,” which includes getting rid of the Electoral College.

In addition to the lattermost issue, Warren emphasized her desire to outlaw political gerrymandering, repeal every “voter suppression law” in the country, and ratify a constitutional amendment “guaranteeing the right of every American to vote, and for their vote to be counted correctly.”

The root of many of Warren’s plans she discussed last night is what she dubs a “wealth tax.” As she described it, every dollar made annually up to $50 million is exempt from the tax. From that point on, every additional dollar made would be taxed two cents.

Warren claims that taxes collected from this so-called “wealth tax” can pay for healthcare and childcare for every child in America, along with tuition at technical colleges, community colleges, and four-year universities for “anyone who wants to get a degree.”

This idea, Warren stated, is supported not only by most Democrats but also by a majority of independents and Republicans.

The study she’s citing is a February Politico poll that asked respondents if they favor or oppose aproposal to levy a new, 2 percent annual tax on all assets (emphasis mine) owned by households with a net worth of $50 million or more, and an additional 1 percent tax on households with a net worth of more than $1 billion?”

That does not just include income as liquid cash in the bank, but rather everything a household owns (including the house) of value. 

Indeed, 50 percent of Republicans and 56 percent of independents either strongly or somewhat favored the proposal — with 20 and 24 percent respectively having no opinion.

Warren also mentioned her desire to “cancel” student loan debt for “95 percent” of debtors.

Most of Warren’s plans can be boiled down to something she said during her speech: “There’s a lot a president can do all by herself. I know the extent of presidential power and I’m prepared to use it.”

It’s hard to put it much more bluntly than that. But if polling is any indication, this philosophy is currently showing its effectiveness in the Democratic primary.


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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.